Jonah Goldberg on Liberals' Moralizing

Jonah Goldberg has an interesting take on the Larry Craig situation that is spot on when it comes to liberals. Those on the left aren’t condemning Larry Craig’s supposed lewd conduct but are instead condemning his hypocrisy on the matter. Jonah notes that the hypocrisy that the liberals can’t stand about conservatives, failing to live up to every moral standard all the time – in other words – for being human, they, too, engage in moralizing on a regular basis but fail to live up to what they preach:

But that misses the point. The Left claims to hate “moralizers.” So any failure to live like Jesus while telling others to follow his example is an outrage, even the defining challenge of our lives. (In 2005, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean pledged, “I will use whatever position I have in order to root out hypocrisy.”)

One solution to the hypocrisy epidemic, of course, is to have no morals at all. You can’t violate your principles if you don’t have any. Another solution: simply define down your principles until they are conveniently consistent with your preferred lifestyle. My own perfect moral code would mandate a strict regimen of not enough exercise, too much scotch and a diet rich in cured meats. Men would be religiously barred from taking out the garbage until their wives told them no less than three times to do so. “Thou Shalt Not Shave More Than Thrice Monthly”: I’d never be a hypocrite if only the Bible gave us commandments like that.

But the Left has another solution. Under its system, you can still be a moralizer. You can still tell people what to do and how to live. And, best of all, you can still fall short of your ideals personally while guiltlessly trying to use government to impose your moral vision on others. All you have to do is become a liberal moralizer.

Once you become a liberal, you can wax eloquent on the glories of the public schools while sending your kids to private school. You can wax prolix about the greedy rich while making a fortune on the side. You can even use the government to impose your values willy-nilly, from racial quotas and confiscatory tax rates to draconian environmental policies and sex-ed for grade-schoolers — all of which will paid for in part by people who disagree with you.

The point is simply this: Hypocrisy is bad, sure. But it’s a human failing that should fall upon the individual in question. What the left wants to do is use hypocrisy as a cudgel to declare that conservative ideals are categorically illegitimate because some conservatives fail to live up to them. But we all fail to live up to our ideals sometimes (just ask John Edwards, who wants get rid of everyone’s SUV, save the one in his driveway). That’s sort of why we call them “ideals.” Most of us don’t fall as far as Larry Craig seems to have fallen, but that’s not necessarily an indictment of his arguments, it’s an indictment of the man.

Indeed.

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